image Photo: Flash90

Gaza rocket hits Israeli factory

A rocket fired by Islamist Palestinians slammed into a factory in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon around 9:30 PM Saturday night. Air raid sirens sent tens of thousands of people into bomb shelters, and there were no reported injured. The warehouse was empty at the time, but the structure sustained damage.

While neither the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas rulers of Gaza immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blamed the new escalation on Israel.

“The Israeli occupation is the prime responsible for everything that happens in Gaza as it continues to blockade it and carry out attacks. The resistance is only acting in self-defense,” Barhoum told Reuters.

The IDF reiterated Israeli government policy in a statement – as it frequently does – that, “The Hamas terror organization is responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it, and will bear the consequences for terror activity against Israeli civilians.”

The Israel Defense Forces retaliated with airstrikes on several military sites operated by Hamas early Sunday. According to witnesses cited by Reuters, the pre-dawn strikes hit targets in Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Younis. There were no reported casualties, but flames and plumes of smoke were reportedly seen rising from some of the areas.

Despite ongoing efforts to secure a long-term truce between the sides, violence has escalated in recent weeks.

Hamas claimed that two rockets fired at central Israel from Gaza last Sunday that hit open areas and caused neither injury nor damage were inadvertently launched by lightning during a thunderstorm. This justification was previously employed when 7 civilians were injured and their home in central Israel was heavily damaged by a Gaza missile strike in March 2019; as well the destruction of a home in the southern city of Beersheba in October 2018 that failed to inflict casualties.

The IDF shot down a Gaza drone that entered Israeli airspace two weeks ago; one rocket fired from Gaza at Ashkelon three weeks ago was intercepted as the other fell in an uninhabited area; and a month ago, a Hamas terror tunnel from Gaza into Israeli territory that was reportedly the deepest-ever dug was exposed by the IDF.

In addition to many short campaigns to end indiscriminate terrorist rocket fire, Israel has fought three major conflicts with Hamas since it seized control of Gaza during a bloody internecine war with its Palestinian rival, Fatah, in 2007.

10 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians were killed during just over 3 weeks of fighting during Operation Cast Lead from late December 2008 to January 2009, with 336 soldiers and 182 civilians wounded.

Operation Pillar of Defense was launched in November 2012 following the firing over more than 100 rockets in 24 hours. 2 IDF soldiers were killed and 20 others were wounded during the 1-week conflict.

67 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed during the 7-week Operation Protective Shield in July-August 2014, while 469 troops and 87 civilians were wounded.